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Clinical Career Day sparks students' interest in health care

by Carolyn Pennington - March 31, 2008

An event at the Health Center designed to help students explore career options in health care and to create a ‘pipeline’ of future health care workers is growing in popularity.

This year’s Clinical Career Day attracted more than 300 students from 18 high schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Now in its fifth year, the event has tripled in size since it began in 2004, when eight high schools and 100 students took part.

“There is definitely a need and high interest level for this kind of career education and guidance,” says Sandy Kressner, education and development specialist in the Department of Human Resources at the Health Center.

The event, held in March, was sponsored by the Health Center’s Department of Human Resources, Celebrate Girls, and the Connecticut Area Health Education Center (AHEC).

“Choosing a career is a complicated process for a student, and you never know what will be the tipping point for them,” said Dr. Bruce Gould, associate dean for primary care and director of the AHEC program.

“This event could be the exposure they need to decide on a health career.”

Gould notes that there is an urgent need for more young people to make that choice.

There are shortages across the spectrum of health care – not only doctors and nurses, but pharmacists, physical therapists, public health professionals, and others – and the situation is expected to get worse as baby boomers age and seek more health services.

“We are facing a health care crisis,” he says.

Not only has the participant rate tripled, the program has expanded as well.

The day’s activities included attending special sessions on topics including integrative medicine, public health, career ladder nursing, laboratory medicine, dental medicine, adolescent medicine, and rehabilitation services.

Students were able to pre-select three different sessions, based on their career interests.

During the Career Fair portion of the event, more than two dozen different clinical career booths offered students information and hands-on experiences.

High school students listen as Tom Casso, preclinical education specialist, talks about the brain and spinal cord during Clinical Career Day at the Health Center.
High school students listen as Tom Casso, preclinical education specialist, talks about the brain and spinal cord during Clinical Career Day at the Health Center.
Photo by Janine Gelineau

Some of the areas represented were: medical librarianship, nursing, psychiatry, biomedical research, pharmacy, physical therapy, and musculoskeletal medicine.

Matthew Mazzucco, a Branford High School senior, is interested in attending the UConn School of Pharmacy. “I’ve always liked math and science a lot,” he said, “and thought I could incorporate both in a pharmaceutical career.”

Professionals in each clinical discipline donated their time during the career fair and break-out sessions.

Students and guidance counselors had the opportunity to speak with them about how they entered their respective fields, gathering information to assist in their own career planning.

Saliyma Faisan, a senior from Manchester, was one of the students looking for more information because she is still trying to decide whether a health care career is right for her.

Her classmate, Erica Chaney, on the other hand, already knows she wants to pursue a career in neonatal medicine. “I’ve always loved being around babies and children,” Chaney said.

In addition to assisting individual students with their future plans, Career Day is also helpful to the Health Center and the state of Connecticut in building a strong pipeline of students interested in pursuing careers in the health field, where shortages exist.

“If we can educate students about clinical careers early on, and provide them with educational and program opportunities, we have a good chance of creating that strong pipeline, where these future professionals will choose to stay in Connecticut to work,” says Kressner, of human resources.

Adds Gould, “The popularity of this event proves that people understand that a career in health care is a smart choice.”

James Roger, a senior from South Windsor who is interested in nursing, is confident of that.

“My mother is a nurse,” he said, “so she really encouraged me to look into it and said it’s a good, safe career to go into.”

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